How we encourage the economy to come back as we try to make it out of the other side of this pandemic is a big question all governments are grappling with, and so are opposition Members of Provincial Parliament. At a media availability today, Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner unveiled his latest private members bill, which encourages the Government of Ontario to start a province-wide retrofit program.
“We face a choice as we recover, Ontario can take old ideas like dismantling environmental protections and ignoring systemic barriers, or we can chart a more sustainable path,” Schreiner said. “I want us to move forward with a green and caring recovery.”
Motion 107 asks for the House’s endorsement for the Provincial government to “implement and fund a province-wide retrofit program to enhance and improve public sector buildings, homes and businesses in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 recovery plan.”
The motion also says that the program will only be used for retrofits that improve energy performance, reduce pollution, reduce energy bills, or improve some public health and wellbeing concern like measures to improve air quality and accessibility. The motion also asks to facilitate training programs and to provide more opportunities to women and people of colour in the trades.
“If the Province were to undertake this ambitious plan, we can not only address our second highest source of GHG [Green House Gas] emissions, our buildings, but we can also improve air quality to make our buildings better positioned to combat COVID-19,” Schreiner said.
Schreiner cited a recent report from the eco-capitalist firm Corporate Knights, which said that a 10-year energy retrofit program would create a 45 per cent reduction in GHG, reduce energy bills by $12.7 billion, and would create over two million jobs. Schreiner added that he heard testimony in committee this summer from businesses looking for the creation of a green renovation fund or a low interest loan program to make building upgrades part of the economic recovery.
“These sorts of projects are shovel ready, and they can be deployed now by big companies and small companies in every single town and city in Ontario,” Schreiner added. “It’s time for Ontario to seize the moment to create jobs, to combat COVID-19, to make our buildings more accessible, and to lower people’s energy bills while meeting our climate obligations.”
Schreiner introduced his bill in the Legislature on the same day that the Federal government unveiled its Speech from the Throne, which featured economic recover efforts along the same lines as his motion; the creation of thousands of jobs by retrofitting homes and buildings to save energy costs.
“To keep building strong communities, over the next two years the Government will also invest in all types of infrastructure, including public transit, energy efficient retrofits, clean energy, rural broadband, and affordable housing, particularly for Indigenous Peoples and northern communities,” the Speech read.
“The Federal government clearly indicated that a Canada-wide building retrofit program is something that’s going to be on the table,” Schreiner said. “I think this particular motion that I tabled yesterday morning aligns with that and really shows the opportunity that the Province has to align priorities with the Federal government, and then get money flowing quickly to be able to support building retrofits in literally every city and town.”
But what are the odds that this Ontario government is going to make infrastructure projects meant to fight climate change a reality? Given the fact that his last private members bill passed second reading unanimously, Schreiner’s confident that his motion has been phrased in such a way to get popular support.
“It’s written in a way that reflects what many businesses were were saying at the economic recovery committee, and it’s also written in a way that addresses the priority that the premier has placed on increasing the number of people in the trades,” Schreiner said. “My hope is that this is the kind of motion, and the kind of program, that the Provincial government will embrace and help us build back smarter.”